Alexei Kudin— a former world champion kickboxer and MMA fighter best known for competing in the M-1 Global heavyweight division—is facing possible extradition from Russia to his homeland of Belarus, where it is feared he may be tortured.
Kudin was detained in Moscow after fleeing political persecution in Belarus several months ago, according to the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Fund. The news was later confirmed by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The heavyweight fighter took part in the pro-democracy protests against dictator Alexander Lukashenko following the August 9, 2020 presidential election. During the anti-government demonstration, Kudin reportedly“assaulted” a security officer and knocked him unconscious after security forces attacked the peaceful protestors. By August 12, reports began to emerge that Kudin had been detained by law enforcement when he went to treat his injuries at a nearby hospital. Several fighters took to social media to defend the heavyweight. Former Bellator champion Alexander Shlemenko noted that riot police “sometimes go too far,” while UFC fighter Alexander Volkov publicly pleaded for Belarus “not to prosecute Alexei Kudin.”
While in detention, Kudin was reportedly “beaten and shot with rubber bullets.” He was eventually released on house arrest two weeks later pending further investigation into his role in the mass protests. He posted a public statement confirming that he is “fine” and “already at home.”
“For me, the country is its people and the peaceful sky, I will continue to do everything so that people in sports know about it! I hope that in the near future I will still be able to make my debut in BARE KNUCKLE FC! The investigation is not over yet, now I I am under house arrest, as soon as all the injuries heal, I will return to training,” Kudin said at the time. “I am grateful to everyone who supported me in this difficult situation.”
Kudin decided to skip his November trial and flee to Russia. He was declared wanted by the Belarusian government and was eventually detained in Moscow. He faces “torture, repression, and even death” if extradited to Belarus, according to the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Fund.
On Aug. 9, 2020, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Belarus to protest the reelection of longtime Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko—often referred to as Europe’s “last dictator”—who has ruled the country since 1994. Lukashenko claimed to have won a landslide victory with more than 80 percent of the vote, which ignited mass protests with demonstrators declaring the election rigged and calling on Lukashenko to resign.
As the protests morphed into a national movement, Belarusian security forces have arbitrarily detained thousands of people and subjected hundreds others to torture and mistreatment. At least three protestors died in August as a result of police brutality where human rights organizations have documented more than 1000 testimonies of torture victims, some of whom faced prolonged beatings, electric shocks, and rape.
Despite the ongoing intimidation, thousands of Belarusian citizens continue to demonstrate against Lukashenko’s regime.
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